Earnest attempt by Himabindu Kanoj and group
February 9, 2016
The dance troupe had 5 letters to its name - ‘Muvva’ (meaning ‘anklet-bell’ in Telugu), and just as many dancers - Himabindu, Sreevalli, Sreeramani, Meghana and Sona. The group which presented four items was led by Dr. Himabindu Kanoj, who has trained under as many gurus - Krishnabharathi, Anuradha Jonnalagadda, Deepika Reddy and Madabhushi Badrinath. The group performed on January 29, 2016 at Visesha Kala Poshakam Utsav organised by the Mylapore Trio in Chennai.
The play of numbers apart, it was the fervour of the group of young aspirant dancers, which was heartening. One of the major challenges of an ensemble is to curate dancers whose standard of training / dancing is uniform. Although ‘Muvva’ had a heterogeneous blend of dancers, they managed to find favour with the audience by capitalising on the strengths of the relatively seasoned dancers amongst them, cautiously camouflaging the limitations of the others. Being their maiden performance in the cultural hub of Chennai, the group from Hyderabad presented choreographies which highlighted the salient features of Kuchipudi, replete with its innate grace, mercurial movements and raconteurial proclivity. The group performed to recorded music and were attired in effervescent pink and gold.
Starting with the soothing Vegavaahini piece of Dikshitar, ‘Gajaananayutam Ganeshvaram,’ the group paid the customary homage to the remover of obstacles, with some attractive group formations. They then embarked upon delineating the story of Rama by way of the ‘Naama Ramayanam,’ the beautiful composition popularised by M.S. Subbulakshmi. Connoisseurs of Kuchipudi would be familiar with a similar traditional choreography, the Ramayana Sabdam / Rama-Pattabhisheka Sabdam, which encapsulates the Ramayana in a nutshell. But just as “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” to quote Shakespeare, the Ramayana in any form is never lacking in beauty and this piece is indeed no exception, with its beauteous manner of narrating the story, simply through eulogising Rama in samaasa-s (word compounds) in Sanskrit. That this is the centenary year of MS is the icing on the cake, so to state. While the dancers could not be really faulted on the execution, one did feel the time-tested knack of having different combinations of dancers for each incident would have worked better, rather than all the dancers being present for the entire length of the piece. Apart from the fact that not all of them had a role to play in every incident, as can be expected, this type of choreography would also address the problem of a not very large stage. Dance troupes and organisers should have a prior understanding of the approximate size of the stage, in relation to the number of dancers who can comfortably present their prowess. This was one of the challenges that the Muvva troupe was facing that evening.
Himabindu then presented solo, the item, ‘Mahadeva Shiva Shambho,’ the famed composition of Thanjavur Shankara Iyer. While depicting the descent of Ganga from the ethereal sphere to the confounding world of Shiva’s matted locks, the petite, lean dancer gave testimony of her training in the Vempati school of Kuchipudi, with its trademark pirouettes, sinuous leaps, et al. But she could do well to leverage the myriad hues of abhinaya to narrate a story more convincingly. Also, the rather terror stricken look to portray the word ‘Shiva(m)’ in the preceding sloka, was unwarranted. While the word by itself refers to the auspicious nature of the Lord, the dancer could have perhaps meant to portray the awe inspiring nature of Shiva, who was being propitiated in the verse. But yet again, it was the abhinaya playing spoilsport. The dancer could also give attention to consistent correctness of posture. The program concluded with a Tillana in Vasantha, which yours truly had to miss, owing to a prior commitment.
Himabindu and her group are sure to reach levels of mature artistry, by widening their artistic horizon. While good coordination is one of their strengths, working on their expressions and ensuring that all dancers have a uniform level of professionalism in presentation is an essential step towards excellence. This maiden performance in Chennai may be a good start. Here’s wishing them greater success!
Naveena is very passionate about language and arts and is an arts-writer, translator, singer, quizzer and compere. Proficient in several languages including Sanskrit, she is sought after by artistes for better understanding and interpretation of lyrics for their academic and artistic pursuits.